Top 5 Places to See Manatees in Miami
Are you looking to see a manatee? Check out our list of top viewing locations in Miami and Beyond
It’s that time of year when Florida’s most endearing snowbirds make the trek south, flocking to warmer waters to escape the winter chill. Manatees, or “sea cows” as they’re affectionately called, congregate in the warm waters of South Florida’s power plant discharge canals and many of the state’s crystal clear springs farther north when the water temperatures drop below 68 degrees. Although they are massive in size, manatees have very little body fat, so they can often be found huddling together for refuge in warmer waters during manatee season (November 15-March 31).
Here are a few local spots where you can catch a glimpse of these majestic sea mammals before they head north for the summer, along with some road-trip worthy destinations to clear blue crystal springs for the ultimate viewing experience.
Manatees traverse Miami’s extensive canal system during the winter months. A popular spot for them is the area from Black Point Park & Marina near Biscayne National Park to Biscayne Bay. Manatees typically poke their whiskery snouts out of the water every 2 to 5 minutes, but can stay submerged for as long as 20 minutes, so be sure to pack your patience.
Power plants are a hot spot
for manatees, so its no surprise the warm-water outflows of Florida Power & Light Company’s (FPL) Riviera Beach Next
Generation Clean Energy Center is an ideal location for manatee watching. For the most ideal viewing opportunities, visit when cooler temperatures continue over a period of two to three days with minimal cloud cover. If you can’t make it to the lagoon, be sure to check out their Manatee Cam live stream. (Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to
Managed by Ft. Pierce Power Authority, the Manatee Observation, and Education Center is a waterfront environmental education and wildlife viewing center. Overlooking Moore’s Creek, the Center provides a resting spot for manatees and a covered observation walkway and second story observation tower providing visitors the perfect spots to see manatees and other wildlife. Swampland Tours and Lisa’s Kayaks provide adventure tours to get on the water for closer observation. (Open Tuesday-Sunday during Manatee Season)
National Seashore, located along the east coast in both Volusia and Brevard counties, features a manatee observation deck where the Kennedy Parkway crosses the Haulover Canal. This spot is popular with manatees and tourists alike. The observation deck features benches for visitors to enjoy the view and manatee information displays. If you don’t have any luck at the Manatee Observation Deck, head over to Bairs Cove Boat Ramp, also along the Haulover Canal.
People come from around the world to interact with manatees at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1983 to protect the then-endangered Florida manatee by creating a refuge to preserve the last unspoiled and undeveloped spring habitat in Kings Bay, which forms the headwaters of the Crystal River. The refuge provides critical habitat for the manatee
populations that migrate here each winter.
The most popular area to view manatees is Three
Sisters Springs, a designated manatee sanctuary between November and March. Several park programs allow visitors to snorkel alongside the manatees, but you can also see them from the boardwalk, viewing points along the roads and on the bridges inside the refuge.
Although no longer endangered, the Florida manatees’ status is
considered “vulnerable” due to its declining population. Their biggest threat is humans. When viewing these gentle giants, keep in mind that It is illegal to harass manatees (that includes hugging), so be sure to give them their space. Check out Crystal River Refuge’s “Manatee Manners” video on how to swim near manatees in a safe and fun way for you and the manatees.